Toni Miles, a researcher at the University of Georgia is leading a research project that is examining the connection between grief and personal health, according to a recent story in USA Today.
"Loss creates injury," Miles says. "It is a new risk factor for poor health in the public sphere."According to a University of Georgia news report, the premise of the Mortality Project, as Miles's research endeavor is called, is that "the effect of mortality on the bystanders" is not adequately taken into account by the healthcare system.
"Usually in a mortality study, we think of death as an endpoint ... If you smoke too much, you die; or if you eat fatty food or don't exercise, you die. So we're always calculating the risk for dying on individual behavior. This project asks the question: If you experience the loss of someone else, what does that do to your own health?"Importantly, although Miles is a gerontologist and much of her work focuses on palliative care, she believes the negative health effects of grief difficulties go far beyond the domain of people who care for the dying.
Miles suspects grief is behind much of the nation's obesity, depression, diabetes, smoking and hospitalization (USA Today).
Miles envisions the Mortality Project eventually covering a broad scope of topics surrounding loss ... [and] hopes that some of her work will encourage other researchers to conduct their own studies on this topic ... "We can do something about that risk ... if we acknowledge that it exists" (University of Georgia Research News).